Just as rival operating systems get their touch tech within a pinch and a flick of Apple’s, the original one-button wonder ups the stakes again. Siri voice recognition redefines mobile convenience, while cloud connectivity finally buries the shuffling undead horror of iTunes syncing. It’s not all roses, though: iOS 5 lacks basic goodies such as live widgets, a Swype-style keyboard and true built-in sat-nav.
5 KILLER FEATURES OF iOS
How did this cheeky cyborg sneak past Apple’s humour police? Ask Siri to open the pod bay door, where to hide a body or what’s the best phone in the world to hear some of its pithier quips. When Siri isn’t taking the metal mickey, it’s setting reminders, connecting you to your chums, and launching apps and searches. Siri-ously smart! Sorry.
Remember when losing a phone meant losing everything? No more: iCloud automatically backs up photos, videos, music, contacts, messages and apps to Apple’s anti-gravity servers that float merrily in the stratosphere, and syncs them across your iOS devices and computers. It’s awful fancy for a service that costs no dollars (5GB) or up to $92 a year (50GB).
Sure, it’s a lot like the Android notification bar, but when Apple steals something, it steals it good. The pull-down screen offers salient info on your agenda and communications, and you get to choose how your favorite apps can disturb you. The lock screen is more than just a picture frame – double-click the home button for access to the camera or music playback.
4 WIRELESS SYNCING
It may have started a revolution, but iTunes is also the best advert ever for Windows Media Player. Apple’s buggy, bloated, error-prone software was always the weak link in the iOS cool chain, and how you can spend less time sitting in front of it. Contacts, music and photos all sync automatically over Wi-Fi, and even firmware updates beam down over the air.
Free texts for everyone, forever. Nothing to learn, nothing to sign up for and no special app to use. We particularly enjoy the tiny delivery notifications – and the fact that iPads and iPod Touches become texting (and Face Time video chat) powerhouses. Not on iOS? Try not to take it personally when we never text you ever again.
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Daily blogs, mags and newspapers delivered automatically, with some surprisingly decent free content such as Metro.
Forget Apple’s eerily empty Find Friends and use Foursquares’s hyper-local Radar feature to track down nearby buddies.
Infinity Blade II
Genuinely console-grade graphics (if not quite game-play) in this jaw-dropping hack and slash-a-thon.
Real Racing 2 HD
Effortless tilt-to-turn steering and four-player split-screen (via AirPlay or HDMI) make this the best post-pubracer around.
Controlled by fingers or vocal cords, iOS is silkily smooth and very intuitive. You can’t tinker as much as you can an other platforms – but it’s hard to get annoyed when it’s this powerful to start with.
If your work for a poncey design company (or Apple itself), iOS is all you’ll ever need, thanks to fast office apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) and good cloud integration. Others may struggle with its hostility to standard files and formats.
There are many pretenders to the crown (notably the fiery new Amazon tablet), but no-one has made buying, enjoying and sharing media files as blissfully simple as Apple. The quality’s top, too.
Can we give it 11 out of 10? The App Store is half a million strong and growing by the second, with the best-looking games and the widest variety of apps for everything from bird-watching to zombie avatars.
There’s an iOS app for everything and good Twitter integration, but Apple’s own social networks (Ping, Find Friends) are poor. The lack of live widgets can make socializing feel quite hard to work, too.
iOS 5′S OTHER STARS
Apple iPad 2
A silver of technological perfection (apart from the camera), and the best place to view your iCloud photo gallery or Newsstand publications. The most accomplished tablet on the market.
Apple iPhone 4
Tell it confidently to remind you about your mum’s birthday and no one will know you’re not rocking a 4S. Except you mum, when she fails to get the flowers an bottle of Asti.
Apple iPod Touch
All the games and apps of an iPhone without the monthly contract. You’ll miss a decent camera and GPS, but iOS 5 brings the consolation of free messaging and full iCloud access.